my manager doesn’t want me to meet with clients unless I lose weight

A reader writes:

I’m a 30-year-old woman, and I’m a size 10/12. I’m not obese by anyone’s standards – except for those of a New York modeling agency. (But I don’t work for a New York modeling agency; I’m a management consultant in Pennsylvania.) I had a mid-year review today in which one of the chiefs at my company told me that she would really like to send me out to do 1×1 consulting with our clients (the primary purpose why I was hired) but that she has less confidence in my ability to make a difference with our clients because of my weight. She asked me if I would be willing to be “thin and edgy” and told me it’s a representation of our brand.

The senior leadership at my company have an extreme focus on health, well-being, and weight. In fact, my CEO was walking by me last year and told me, “You need to lose weight.” I know they’ve said the same to people who are both bigger and smaller than I am.

Do I have any rights here? I’m incredibly upset and heartbroken – as I love my job. But I don’t know if I can handle having to have conversations about my weight with my bosses. It just doesn’t seem right to me.

How incredibly obnoxious.

Legally, this is probably fine. Appearance and weight aren’t protected classes under federal law, and only a few jurisdictions in the U.S. have protected appearance at the state or city level. Pennsylvania has not. In some circumstances, obesity can be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but you’re not obese — far from it, it sounds like.

I think if this were me, I’d go back to your manager and seek clarification. I’d say something like this: “Can I ask you more about what you said the other day about needing to be ‘thin and edgy’ in order to meet with clients? I’m a pretty average size, and I’d like to understand more about what your concern is.” And then depending on her answer, I’d probably say, “This isn’t a field in which I expected to be told to be model thin, or where clients seem to care as long we’re polished and professional looking. Can you help me understand how big of a deal you see this as, and what the likely ramifications are? I’m unlikely to alter my body as long as I’m at a healthy weight, and I’d really rather my weight not be up for discussion at work — but I want to understand your thoughts here.”

What you want to get a better sense of is whether (a) this woman is an ass but this isn’t likely to have a major impact on your success there or (b) she’s an ass and it’s likely to impact you in ways that will hold you back if you stay there.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 369 comments… read them below }

    1. BTownGirl*

      My sentiments exactly. I’ve been at a loss for words about three times total in my entire life and now I’m up to four. These people sound like a bunch of loons. If it makes the OP feel any better, years ago I worked in a highly dysfunctional office and I was told I should be wearing “…big shirts, because it looks like you’ve had…ummm…plastic surgery and that’s not professional.” I asked for clarification, because I’ve never really worn tight clothes to work and they basically wanted me to go buy a new wardrobe five sizes too big. I wanted to say, “I was born with this disproportional body and refuse to apologize for it. Will the pear-shaped be required to wear their pants five sizes too large as well?” I didn’t quit until the branch manager got drunk at an after-work event and told a coworker that I “look like a porn star”. Five years later, this same company called my manager, the company’s office manager to pitch their services as recruiters for a few roles we had open. I happened to be in her office when she got the call and, as we had been working together for years, I told her the above story. She called them back and told them to never call her or anyone else in the (large) company again. She then requested to speak with the branch manager and told him exactly why she would never work with them.

      Don’t worry OP, jerks like this will eventually step on someone’s toes and regret it!

      1. One of the Annes*

        So often there are no consequences for bad behavior. It’s really nice to hear about an instance where there were some repercussions. Kudos to you.

  1. A teacher*

    Let me be one of the first commenters to say your manager an upper leadership out asshats. I’m sorry, no real advice. As an athletic trainer that has worked in fitness, in fact still teaches one night a week I actually did struggle with my weight. 65lbs off and your boss would still consider me not thin at a size 8/10. They clearly do not have a concept of true fitness and exercise physiology and it’s scary they think they do.

    1. KarenT*

      They clearly do not have a concept of true fitness and exercise physiology and it’s scary they think they do.

      Seconded. Thin and edgy and health and wellness are two very different things. Thin and edgy sounds like they are looking for super skinny models. It sounds like the OP is healthy, so them calling this health and wellness is total bullshit.

      1. Nina*

        I agree. I think they know exactly what they meant with thin and edgy, and they’re trying to hide it under the veil of “wellness”.

      2. Elysian*

        Besides, how do you change your look to be “edgy?” What does that even mean? Is the OP supposed to get a bunch of tattoos in order to keep her job or something? Unless they mean “with more edges” but I don’t think people use that word in that way, and it would be extra unhealthy if they did.

        1. KarenT*

          Thin and edgy instantly made me picture a supermodel wearing a ton of eyeliner and dressed in all black. But it’s certainly something that could be interpreted in a number of ways, which adds another dimension of weirdness to this company.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yeah, I guessed that or they watched too much “House of Lies” (show on Showtime about management consultants) and want employees to dress like that. Some of the attire there (or on other TV office shows) is really out there and inappropriate for most offices.

        2. the gold digger*

          I would be edgy if I were really thin just because to get really thin, I would have to be hungry all that time and being hungry turns me into a b*tch. Hence, edgy.

      3. JB*

        For real.

        I’m pretty thin and only getting thinner because of health problems and increasing numbers of food allergies. No medical professional would describe me as healthy. If I walk even half a mile too briskly, or do even maybe 20 jumping jacks, my asthma kicks in, that’s how out of shape I’ve become. I have no real endurance and no real muscle mass. But I’m thin, so I’m healthy, right?

        My coworker is a size or two bigger than me but she is super super healthy. She eats healthy food and does Crossfit and runs marathons. I am in awe of her. Another one of my coworkers runs “for fun” and loves to do health activities. I, on the other hand, get lectures from all of my doctors about needing to exercise more, and I can’t even open a heavy door if it’s windy outside. If my office needed someone to represent us as a representative of a healthy lifestyle, I would so not be on the short list.

        I get so irritated when people say to thin people, “Oh, why are you worried about working out, you’re so thin?” “Why are you getting vegetables instead of french fries, you’re thin!” The reason that kind of comment irritates me is because it just shows how, in the U.S. at least, we equate being thin with being healthy. So somebody who never works out, eats nothing but fast food and Hostess products, but hit the genetic lottery and is thin, that person is healthy?

        I feel really strongly about this, as you can tell.

        1. Traveler*

          +1 We seriously have to stop using fat/thin as the only measurement of health/wellness.

          1. Simonthegrey*

            We also need to stop using them as a moral compass. Thin does not necessarily equal decent human being (as the manager in this case proves), and fat – which I am, FWIW – does not equal lazy, incompetent, or suffering from moral turpitude.

            1. JB*

              +1 I may be thin but it’s for reasons that have nothing to do with my choices. I’m suuuuuper lazy. Some thin people I know aren’t. Some larger people I know are lazy. Many aren’t. I’ve seen absolutely no correlation over the years between a person’s size and their kindness, ability, or morality.

          2. Poe*

            I am a UK 18/20 (US 14/16) and I have a belly–that’s just how my body is built. If people aren’t asking if I’m pregnant (I’m that age and with my profile, people seem to assume), they’re judging what I eat and what I do in my spare time. What do I do? I take pole dance classes, run, do yoga, and yup, I drink beer and eat pizza. But I’m healthy as the proverbial horse, and my doctor is pleased with my diet (which is heavy on fruit and veg to balance out my less-healthy meals) and I’m tired of people assuming I’m fat and lazy. I’m judged so much on it (and so much of it is actually out-loud, not just assumed silently) that even with strangers on the internet I feel the need to defend myself. Why can’t society focus on war or poverty or something and leave body shape out of it?

          3. RishaBree*

            I have a very athletic friend who suddenly started losing a bunch of weight several years ago. It turns out that she had developed hyperthyroidism. By the time she went to a doctor a couple of months later, it had burned through all of her limited fat stores, much of her muscle mass, and it had started in on her heart.

        2. Verde*

          I hope your health gets better. Having watched several friends go through some awful health stuff/treatments, I here you that thin is not always healthy – there are people that wold love to be able to put some weight on, not just take it off. And I absolutely agree with Traveler below.

      4. Anon*

        Agreed, and I wonder if these “health”-focused executives have read all of the literature about how being simply overweight (not obese), in the absence of other risk factors, poses no major health risks? And connecting being underweight with increased mortality risks (far from conclusive, I know)? I know they haven’t told the OP to become underweight, but “edgy”-thin usually is, in my experience. If anyone else watches that show Supersize vs. Superskinny, I’m often surprised that the “superskinny” women will look pretty average for a model or actress and then have a BMI of 14-16.

        (This post isn’t meant as a criticism of thin women, obviously – just a commentary on how the research doesn’t support the prejudices people justify in the name of “health.”)

      5. coconut water*

        To me, thin and edgy is unhealthy. It reeks of an eating disorder and/or a
        Substance Abuse issue. OP, I’m so sorry you were told to lose weight when you are not overweight. Something is really wrong with a “wellness” company who has that attitude. If I knew what company it was, I would boycott them.

        1. Stephanie*

          “I said to myself, ‘Go ahead. Take a chance. Hire the smart fat girl.'”

          Meryl Streep made that movie a lot better than it should have been.

      6. CinikAl*

        + 1. I wouldn’t want tips on finding my way out of a paper bag from an army of hangry, cracked out narcissists with the empathy of a block of granite and no understanding of what makes a motivated, invested, and MENTALLY healthy team member who is credible enough that clients will want to pay for them to sort out their troubles. (from a size 10, formerly a miserable consultant, now a bouncy social worker). Good for you OP, for believing you deserve better.

  2. Loose Seal*

    OP says the higher-ups have told others to lose weight. I’m assuming that if they only tell the women that and never the men (OP doesn’t say), that is a discrimination issue and, consequently, illegal?

    1. HarperC*

      Yeah, I was thinking along those lines, too. I feel as though if they are singling out women for comments on their weight, this could very well end up being discriminatory.

      1. Nina*

        I thought that too, AVP. I’m wondering if the men get more of the “look ripped and muscular in a suit” requests than being thin and edgy. But whatever the company is asking, I can see the men being judged for this as well.

    2. Adam*

      I wondered about that too. Her original post said that the higher ups have made similar comments about weight and appearance to other “people” in the company and nowhere in her email did I get the impression she felt singled out, for her gender or otherwise.

      The fact the conversation was started by her manager who is also a woman leads me to think this is part of the culture and they generally want their public facing employees to look “healthy”. I wouldn’t be surprised if the women got more trouble for this then the men do in this organization, but she doesn’t give me the impression that it’s only the women who are singled out with this nonsense.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think this has anything to do with looking “healthy”. As others have noted the request to look “thin and edgy” has zero to do with being healthy, or LOOKING healthy.

          1. Adam*

            Meaning that they may couch it in health since as the OP said “The senior leadership at my company have an extreme focus on health, well-being, and weight…”, but we know looks are likely the primary motivator here.

      2. Camellia*

        Did anyone else notice, “In fact, my CEO was walking by me last year and told me, “You need to lose weight.”? That would have triggered a freak-out for me right there.

        1. smilingswan*

          I’m pretty sure I would’ve burst into tears and left on the spot, although I would’ve wanted to slap him.

        2. MolinNJ*

          Camellia- those were my thoughts exactly! I would have started my job search right then and there! But the fact it was discussed in a serious way in a review with someone else in your firm means that some higher ups have those expectations as well which is concerning.

          OP- so sorry that you have to even deal with this- it’s absurd. Please don’t let this affect your confidence or your value.

          And, doubt you have put on a lot of weight since you got hired p, so if they wanted thin and edgy that’s what they should have hired (ridiculous requirement as it is). Makes me wonder what kind of clients would hire a firm like this….

      3. Ani*

        It’s all so bizarre. They could just hire people who already look the way they want. It’s like it’s become some sort of in-house sickness/obsession.

        1. Mabel*

          I know! As I was reading the letter, I was thinking, “didn’t they know what she looked like when they hired her?” Why didn’t they tell her then that in order to be hired, she would need to weigh less (or just hire someone else)?

    3. EngineerGirl*

      That’s a common problem that women face. While it is true that good looking people get ahead regardless of sex, it is also true that women are held to a higher standard for “good looking”. Weight is one of them, where a woman of normal weight is considered “fat”. Multiple people in this company have made it very, very, very clear that weight is an issue. Since they are clearly lacking in the critical thinking department, there is nothing left to do but leave.

      1. S*

        I think that’s separate from the work issue though. About two thirds of American adults are at an unhealthily high weight, so considering “a woman [or man] of normal weight” to be “fat” isn’t incorrect, at least within the context of the U.S. (not sure what the statistics are for other countries). You’re totally right of course that weight/health/appearance shouldn’t be considered as part of your work, unless you work in an industry where it’s actually relevant (modelling, some areas of entertainment etc.) or you truly look unkempt. And you’re also right that women are scrutinized on these issues much more than men are, held to different standards, etc., although we don’t have much evidence one way or the other that that’s happening in this particular situation.

        1. fposte*

          I think you’re falling afoul of the difference between “normal” and “average” there.

    4. Bwmn*

      I wondered about this as well. The description of “thin and edgy” reads to me as more of wanting a certain type of image more so than anything to do with health. However, while ‘thin’ is what stereotypically reads as healthy/in-shape for women – for men there’s more of a range from thin (i.e. long distance runner) to larger/bulky (i.e. weight lifter) that can (stereotypically) read as healthy/in-shape.

      Now if this company is looking for both men and women to be “thin and edgy” – I’d be pretty surprised.

      1. Runner*

        There are plenty of long distance runners who are not the stereotypical greyhound-thin build often associated with marathon running.

  3. Vanilla*

    Something similar happened to me in college. I was hired to work at a fitness organization and was a little overweight at the time (not obese). My manager hired me knowing what I looked like. On my first day, she told me I needed to lose weight. What she did not know was that I was suffering from a pretty serious eating disorder at the time so her comment cut me to the core. I ended up resigning the next day but saying that the position wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be and that it didn’t really align with my career interests. Do I wish I would have handled it better? Absolutely. But I was 22 and pretty clueless about professional behavior/expectations at the time.

    I agree with Alison ‘ s advice to get clarification. If the employer still wants you to lose weight when you are at a healthy weight, that’s another issue.

    Like the OP’s company, mine is very health conscious. According to their standards, I need to lose weight. My physician says I’m very healthy and in great shape (I’m an athlete).

    1. Mimmy*

      *wince* Yikes, that is why people have to be so, so careful what they say to others! You just never know if the person’s appearance is due to a medical issue.

      1. the gold digger*

        Exactly. I have a friend who has lost so much weight in the past two years. People commented on her facebook page how great she looked – forgetting that her husband had suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 42 two years ago and that she has spent a lot of time in the hospital for severe anemia. I think she would be very happy to have all the weight back if she could have her husband back and have good health.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Oh boy. Tell your friend I will keep her in my thoughts. And others in her shoes. I lost 17 pounds when my husband took sick and then died. My 6’s were big on me. I looked like hell. I could see the outline of my organs in my belly. It was quite disturbing.

    2. Bea W*

      I think you handled that just fine under the circumstances. Staying beyond Day 1 would have been a waste of effort and bad for your mental health. I can see giving notice or trying to stick ot out if you’d been there for any length of time, but in this situation cutting the cord immediately wasn’t a bad thing. Good for you.

      1. Julie*

        I agree with Bea W. It would have been a waste of time for all and painful for you to stay. 2 week notices are to help with transitions. Being on the job one day gives you nothing to help out with transitioning so it’s no biggie. Another way to think of it is that they disrespected you, so why go back after one day of that shit?

    3. Coco*

      “If the employer still wants you to lose weight when you are at a healthy weight, that’s another issue.”

      That sounds like you’re saying that the employer gets to decide if you’re at a healthy size and are entitled to make it an issue if that’s what they decide. As your own example demonstrates, they aren’t really the judges of that and should make an effort to keep this stuff out of the workplace.

      1. Vanilla*

        I should have clarified my comment. In my opinion, the employer doesn’t get to determine what’s a “healthy” weight because that’s different for everyone based on their body type, etc. For example, let’s say that a company feels that for a woman that is 5’2″ tall, her “ideal” weight is 110 lbs. For my body type, that’s really unreachable and downright unhealthy and my physician would agree with that. What if my physician says that 130 lbs is more appropropriate for my body type, etc. (I’m making these numbers up)? Under the company’s standards, anything over 110 lbs is overweight and I have an issue with that.

        FWIW, I agree with you that employers should keep this kind of stuff out of the workplace.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          Same here. At 5’4″ and 145 pounds, I’m considered overweight by the charts. But I wear a size 6 or 8. Fact is, I’m a stocky Scott who is broad shouldered and heavily muscled. I have no known medical issues, my BP is normal and my flexibility is that of a much younger person (touch my toes? how about reach around and grab my ankles too?) I get a little tired when some stranger looks at my weight – and **only** my weight – and tells me I’m not fit. Hey, I’ll let my doctor decide that, OK/

          1. Anon*

            Wait, what? Are you me?

            – Another thin, thick-boned Scottish woman who is 5’4″, 145lbs and wears a size 6

        2. the invisible one*

          The rule of thumb I learned from a nurse a few years ago was “100lbs at 5′ plus 5lbs per inch of height” is the *minimum* healthy weight for an average non-athlete adult woman. (That “average” may also mean “average white”.) So for a woman 5’2″ tall, she shouldn’t try to diet herself below 110lbs unless her doctor says to, and should probably be above that. That says nothing about her ideal weight, which depends a lot more on her build (bone and muscle) and her activity/fitness level.

          (I’ve been below my “minimum healthy weight” by that formula, but that was when I was doing a triathlon training program and had a hard time eating enough to keep up, so I was not in the “non-athlete” part of that rule of thumb.)

          But regardless, the employer shouldn’t have anything to say about somebody’s weight, shape, or fitness level.

          1. Zillah*

            I’m sorry, but that’s nonsense. It’s a decent enough rule of thumb, I guess, and it’s certainly a good rule of thumb if you’re trying to lose weight, but I’m about 5’7 and I’ve never been more than 115 lbs. when I was healthy (as opposed to eating too much junk food, etc). I fall pretty far from that rule of thumb, but I’m also pretty healthy.

            It depends a lot on your body type and build.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      If you mean — I wish I’d handled it better by giving notice — no, not for your mental health.

      If you mean — I wish I’d handled it better by telling them the real reason — don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s not your job to reform jerks!

      1. Dan*

        Not only that, but if you’ve only been on the job for a day, two weeks notice isn’t really required. The notice period is to tie up loose ends and transition work. On day 1, there are no loose ends or work to transition, so it’s just easier for everybody to be done with it.

        1. Joline*

          Yeah. And staying longer really only means they spend more money investing time/training into you. Like you say – easier for everyone to just be done.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      Damn. Good on you for quitting after you realized what kind of an unhealthy work environment it would be.

      I actually prefer health consultant types who aren’t pure muscle or super skinny. I want to feel like there’s a chance they can relate to me :)

  4. Mela*

    Man, I was hoping Alison’s first words would be “What an ass”. But I’ll let them be my first words. What an ass. Wow.

  5. Episkey*

    This whole situation sucks. I had an eating disorder in my late teens and this would be very upsetting to me. I WAS rail thin for awhile; I was also very unhealthy and came near to being hospitalized. Ugh, I have no advice, just sympathy. Why did they ever even hire you if they knew they wouldn’t send you to meet with clients at your current weight/appearance??

  6. Ali*

    Ugh this scares me a little bit about the new job I just took with a sports/fitness nutrition company. I want to be healthier and have so far lost nearly 20 pounds but have a long way to go in terms of better food choices and weight loss. I worry that even though I work from home, people I work with will find out that my appearance and habits aren’t perfect and they’ll rethink their decision to have me onboard. I have coworkers who shop at Whole Foods, are in amazing shape (running races and so forth) and participate in things like “Meatless Monday.” I like group exercise classes, sometimes still eat junk food and could never give up meat.

    The standards these days make me feel like I can never measure up and I do feel some pressure now knowing how healthy my new colleagues are. Luckily everyone has been nice and supportive but these days you feel like it’s impossible…

    1. Adam*

      Congratulations on your health successes so far! The key is to keep doing what works for YOU. No food lifestyle or exercise regimen is going to appeal to or work for everybody, and the reasonable fitness buffs know this. I’m sure most of them have their “cheat days” as well. As someone who adheres to a fairly healthy diet most of the time you’ve got to indulge a little or else you go nuts. Life is too short to spend it only eating boneless skinless chicken breasts and broccoli.

      As a woman once told me “Six pack abs on a guy are nice to look at, but I usually don’t go for that. It often means they’re no fun and don’t drink beer.” :P

      1. Adam*

        And no offense to those who actually have the cut abs here. I wish I did have them but I like beer and pizza just a tad too much.

      2. Sharm*

        I feel the same as the woman you mention! More power to folks who are really diligent about fine-tuning their bodies, but I eat big portions and I eat dessert, and I need a man who can roll with me. In my case, I eat a lot and my bf drinks a lot, but I think we complement each other nicely. :-)

    2. Elysian*

      I think that working at a fitness organization, it would make sense that people would encourage their coworkers to eat well, participate in exercise like running races. The kind of people that like doing those things are probably also the kind of people that like ‘Meatless Monday.’

      But none of that has to do with weight or physical appearance. It has to do with the actual things that people do to strive to be healthy. It’s awesome that you’re working on being healthier! But I would hope your coworkers, if they’re truly into wellness, wouldn’t judge you for not being perfect. There are a lot of ways to be healthy.

    3. Stephanie*

      Ali, sort of in the same boat. I talked to someone about jobs at her fitness-oriented company (for engineering leads, however) and even asked “Um, will I stand out that I’m not that into sports or super fitness-obsessed?” She reassured me that I’d be fine.

  7. Ann Furthermore*

    Alison’s advice is spot-on, as usual, but personally I wouldn’t even bother with having the discussion with my manager. I’d just start looking for a new job. There is no way I’d want to work in such a snarky, mean, judgmental atmosphere. I’ve struggled with my weight all my life, and it’s hard enough to deal with without feeling like I’m being judged at every turn.

    What other nasty comments do people have to put up with at this place, if they don’t meet management’s definitions of physical perfection? Do you get called out if you eat something other than carrot sticks and water for lunch? Are you told you’re not allowed to have a piece of birthday cake if someone is celebrating? Or better yet, are those thin enough given cake while all those deemed to be too heavy given a rice cake instead?

    And if the OP *did* decide to lose weight to be “thin and edgy” enough for clients, is there any guarantee that’s where the makeover would stop? What would be next? “We’d really like to send you out to work with clients, but blonde hair is a representation of our brand. Would you be willing to change your hair color?” Or, “We’d really like to send you out to work with clients, but Manolo Blahnik shoes are a representation of our brand. Would you be willing to spend $3,000 on new shoes before we send you out into the field?”

    Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. There are not many good things about getting older, but one of them is not having to put up with nasty, mean-girl treatment like this, which is straight out of some sort of high school cool kids clique. OP, find a new job — this one is bad for your mental health.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        A comment on here I read and loved was “run like your ass is on fire” and we’re both in agreement. Run like the wind and run like your ass is on fire OP.

        This company’s management has acted so poorly and in a manner that’s just plain awful.

        1. Poohbear McGriddles*

          If my ass was on fire, I’d stop drop & roll.

          Unless I panicked. Then I’d probably run.

      2. JB*

        OT but when I see this phrase written, I think of the episode of The Simpsons when Marge says to “run like the wind” but pronounced it like wind-up toy because she’s only ever seen it in print. I’m not sure why I thought that was so funny, but years later it still makes me laugh. So thanks for making me laugh!

        1. Computerbagel*

          Yes, me too! I always think of that scene, to the point where I now can’t help but hear the phrase in Marge’s voice every time I encounter it in print.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was thinking the same thing. If you loose 10 pounds, then will they want another 10? Next will be hair, then clothes, then a boob job…

      Would they fire you if you don’t loose weight? Or rather, would they fire you because you are happy with your health and appearance?

      I need to stop thinking about it. It is making me so mad!

    2. some1*

      Yeah, I am smaller than a size 10 and *I* would look for another job if I found out any of my coworkers got this “advice” because I think it’s a shitty way to treat your employees.

      1. Elysian*

        Yup. Not only is it a crappy way to eat people overall (solidarity!), but the last thing I want to think about during Christmas dinner is “Crud, will seconds of turkey mean I get fired????”

          1. Cube Ninja*

            Everything here is edible — even me! But that’s called cannibalism and is frowned upon in many cultures!

        1. fposte*

          Some of us may remember back pre-’90s when flight attendants had strict weight restrictions, and FAs could be suspended for going over the weight stipulated as correct for their height.

          1. Audrey*

            I was on a cruise ship last year and went on a behind-the-scenes tour. We were told that the performers all have strict weight requirements – nobody is allowed to gain more than some amount that is stated up front, in the contract, and every performer has to be weighed every week. Also each performer has to do a certain number of hours of fitness training each week as well as rehearsals for the different shows. I wonder if you would be put off at the next port if you broke the conditions, or if they would suspend your pay and keep you on board until you complied again. I didn’t think to ask.

    3. Celeste*

      Agree with the advice to hit the road. It’s not just one ass here, there are others. Clearly they have an idea that the women A) need to use sex appeal to be successful, and B) only very thin women are sexually appealing to them.

      So. I guess it’s good you’ve been told that you aren’t going to work out here. I’d get busy finding work at a better company. I understand that jobs in fashion, modeling, and so on may require people to be at their lowest weight, but you aren’t at a bad weight and just need to work someplace normal.

      I’m very sorry for what they put you through. I look forward to an update that you got out of there and into someplace great.

  8. Christina*

    “The senior leadership at my company have an extreme focus on health, well-being, and weight.”

    From what you said, it sounds like they just have an obsession with weight/size…because clearly your health and well-being are not being taken into account in this icky, body shaming environment.

    Good luck & I hope it all turns out well!

    1. Laura*

      THIS. I’m currently working on improving my health and losing weight, and when I get into my healthy range, I should be a size 10-12. Lower than that I would be *too thin* and get called out on that…I know, I spent a while down there and with doctors pushing me to gain weight.

      This company is not pushing health. They are pushing unhealthy beauty standards. I’m disgusted.

      1. nyxalinth*

        I could safely do, at lowest, 130 pounds Lower than that, and I would start to look skeletal. right now I’m a size 24 and have been dropping weight, maybe in a year or so I can be around 150, which would probably be better at my age and other factors. But damn, these people sound like asshats. I know OP loves her job, but it might be time to start looking for another company that isn’t such a bunch of dumbasses.

    2. spocklady*

      This exactly. Your health and well-being are not related to your body weight/size! Ugh these people are awful; I agree with others who say just run. Good luck OP – it sucks that you’re having to deal with this.

  9. AMD*

    I suffer enough insecurity about my image, personal and professional, and my weight. I can’t imagine the emotional tailspin if someone from the company decided to take me to task over it.

    I think Alison’s advice is great. I hope you can have the conversation in as clinical and dispassionate a way as possible, and not carry anything dumb said about your body home with you afterwards. Good luck!

    1. OhNo*

      +2 That was the description I needed to explain how I feel.

      Ugh, this company clearly is lead by jerks.

    2. Kate*

      +1. STABBY.

      I’m very small, but if I found out someone else was being treated this way at my job, I would absolutely say something – that in no uncertain terms I find this a disgusting way to treat professionals.

      Crazy body odor or refusal to comport with a dress code are different, legitimate examples where it would be okay to ask someone to make their appearance more professional. Telling someone you reject their appearance outright because their weight is somehow offensive.

      I kannot with this kind of thing.

      1. Kate*

        Um, the last part of my sentence was deleted by internet gremlins…

        “Telling someone you reject their appearance outright because their weight is somehow offensive is on a completely different level.”

  10. TotesMaGoats*

    What the actual f! I applaud you for not throat punching your bosses during any of these conversations. Allison’s advice is spot on. I have nothing to add from that perspective. These people are jerks and even if you worked in fashion, in New York it still wouldn’t be right to say that to you. It might be okay that it was expected to be a certain size but not to say it.

      1. JB*

        +1 RIGHT? Other states need this. I think the chances of it being adopted here in Texas are hovering near zero.

  11. JoAnna*

    “The senior leadership at my company have an irrational, unrealistic, and illogical focus on how an employee’s body size allegedly correlates to customer expectations.”

    There, fixed it for you.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t want to represent a company who thinks someone who is a size 10 is too fat to be “representative of our brand.” That’s a huge red flag.

      1. Luxe in Canada*

        Exactly. I would boycott a company that told its employees to lose weight to fit a certain image. I’m okay with dress code, restrictions on visible tattoos/piercings, and restrictions on hair colour (i.e. no unnatural colours). Those are all choices that people made about how to look, and you can generally take steps to change that back. But asking an employee to literally remove part of their body to fit an aesthetic ideal… That’s gross. I wouldn’t want to work for a company that asked my coworkers to do that, and I wouldn’t want to give work to vendors or suppliers who asked that of their employees. Yuck.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      To be honest, I wouldn’t want to represent a company that believes it’s possible to be “too fat to be a representative of our brand.” BLECH.

      1. JoAnna*

        Well, there are some notable exceptions — I could see Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig not wanting a clinically obese person to be representative of their brands. But I think (and hope!) both companies would be fine with a size 10 person being their rep.

        1. SouthernBelle*

          I can’t speak for JC but WW states in their job postings that you have to be within +/- 2 pounds of the weight range for your height (if I remember correctly) to work for them. I don’t know if this is for all of their positions, but it was definitely true for the one that I applied for. They didn’t ask for height/weight or pictures with the initial application though, so it seems to me that they set themselves up to lose a lot of good candidates based off of weight variances.

  12. Summer*

    This is a very strange situation. I think Alison offered a good option to consider and I also think that looking for a new job is an decent idea. I am curious though, that the OP noted the reason she was hired was to work 1×1 with clients. Assuming she is the same now as she was when hired-then why is this topic being raised now (and in a performance review)-inappropriate on so many levels but the timing is weird. If you are hired to work 1×1 with clients and if the artificial requirement to be “thin and edgy” (bizarre again) is ‘real’ in this organization then why bring it up now? If you hire for specific requirements then one should assume that fakey ‘look’ requirements were noted and met upon hiring-shouldn’t they?

    Curious goings on.

    1. AVP*

      That’s the strangest part, to me – obviously they saw her in the interview and didn’t raise the issue then! They can’t assume that a person is going to be willing to change their appearance drastically to keep a job.

      My only guess is that the manager didn’t think it would be a problem, but one of the higher-ups saw her in the office one day and made a comment to the manager and now she’s in reaction mode.

  13. Mimmy*

    Not that it really matters, but I’m a little unclear about the industry in which the OP is in. She references a modeling agency in NYC, but then says she’s a management consultant in Pennsylvania. If it’s a field where employers are likely going to focus heavily on health & wellness and “thin & edgy” appearance for their employees (I’m thinking perhaps sports, fashion and certain areas of entertainment as examples), then you’d have to consider whether you’re comfortable staying in that field. But in a management consulting company? That seems odd. I would definitely take Alison’s advice to talk to your manager.

    1. brightstar*

      My understanding is that the OP could understand this attitude if she worked for a modeling agency in NYC, but since she’s in management consulting in Pennsylvania, the attitude strikes her as unorthodox.

      1. Felicia*

        Yup, OP said “(But I don’t work for a New York modeling agency; I’m a management consultant in Pennsylvania.)” , because they were using a New York modeling agency as an example of where this attitude might make sense.

  14. Bea W*

    I’m “thin and edgy”…just edgy enough I’d have to staple my lips together to keep from saying something i might regret before I could find a new job. I find this really offensive, and frankly it disgusts me.

    What field is this? One that focuses on physical image or health? Please tell me it’s some company that focuses on fitness or something that would offer some insight into why they might think this is an acceptable thing to require of an employee. That wouldn’t justify it, but it would at least make more sense than if the OP works promoting chocolate tea pots.

  15. Lamington*

    As long as you dress professionally, who cares what size you are? That’s horrible, I’m the same size that you are and reading those comments from the boss makes me feel like a mammoth.

    1. LBK*

      Agreed – while I know it’s a struggle sometimes to find nice clothes that fit well when you’re a larger size, I do think attire makes much more of a difference for appearance than weight. By contrast, I had a rail-thin coworker who often dressed in ratty or inappropriately revealing clothes in the office. That was a much worse image than if she’d been overweight but wearing a perfectly tailored suit or a great dress.

  16. Technical Editor*

    Read a little more carefully. OP says:

    “(But I don’t work for a New York modeling agency; I’m a management consultant in Pennsylvania.)”

    1. Mimmy*

      I read it several times, actually….it just wasn’t making sense to me for some reason. Just a senior moment I guess :)

      Thanks everyone for the clarification.

  17. NylaW*

    If your company has such a focus on health and well-being, what do they do with the unfortunate people who have chronic illnesses, disabilities, etc.?

  18. Cucumber*

    You’re a *management consultant* and they’re telling you their brand is to be “thin and edgy”?

    I have to repeat what’s been said before. Wow. Just wow. And – yes, just start looking for a new job. This is not going to stop with your weight. It *will* continue with other aspects of your looks. “Thin and edgy” = “our version of sexy and hip”, so don’t be surprised when you’re expected to socialize and charm clients with your sexuality.

    I doubt very, very much that your male colleagues are getting the same kind of feedback from their male chiefs with that kind of language. The men are probably getting crap about needing to seem “athletic and tough” = “powerful and someone clients will want to sic on their competitor”. Strangely, I’m thinking of an old L.A. Law episode where a company CEO demanded that anyone in search of a C-level or VIP position had to go rock climbing with him.

    Even if you were obese, your body type has nothing to do with the intelligence and skills you’d be putting to use for your clients. Even if this was a fitness firm, still inappropriate, unless your CEO also doubles as the company doctor.

    It’s completely understandable that a person who does not *dress* well or appropriately is sending the wrong message about the company and their brand – but anyone, size 6 to 26, can class up the joint in a nice dress while blowing people’s minds with their work ethic and ideas.

    1. EmilyG*

      ” “Thin and edgy” = “our version of sexy and hip”, so don’t be surprised when you’re expected to socialize and charm clients with your sexuality.”

      That’s what I was hearing in this, as well, which is why I also think “run like the wind” is the best thing to do. Good luck, OP.

  19. Case of the Mondays*

    You could try reaching out to your local human rights commission. Alison is probably right that this is legal but it borders so closely on violating rules that they might investigate just enough to scare your company into straightening up. Sometimes getting a visit from the HRC is just as effective as a fine from the HRC.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For what it’s worth, I don’t think that would spark an investigation. They’re likely to just let her know it’s not illegal. Those agencies tend to be overloaded with work and often can’t act on even the cases that do violate the law.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        My state has one and investigates every case before deciding probable cause or no probable cause but they are very backed up and it does sometimes take years.

        1. fposte*

          Ah, didn’t know that. So it’s basically what other states just call their state EEOC?

          1. Anon 1*

            Some states have fair housing/employment agencies, some states have an office of human rights. It all depends on how and where they chose fit those types of agencies. EEOC is the federal agency charged with investigating discrimination. Each state has a state and federal counterpart, and states also have their own rules about how/when to file.

      2. Diane*

        We have them in some US cities as well. They can be advisory, supportive, or investigative.

  20. Mike C.*

    Out the company. Clients, partners and future employees should know that this company is acting in a highly unethical manner.

    1. AnonAnalyst*

      Seriously. I want to know SO MUCH what company this is so I don’t ever apply to work there since I’m in a similar line of work. I had an eating disorder in my teens and early twenties and while I’m physically better now, a lot of the mental part of it has never gone away. I would be horrified if I got this feedback, especially at work. OP, you have my sympathies.

    2. LBK*

      Out of curiosity – how do you think the OP should go about outing the company in a way that won’t potentially cause more damage to her own reputation and career than to her employer? Not being snarky, I’m legitimately curious how you would go about this. I generally admire the balance of social justice and realism in your comments so I’m interested to hear your take.

      1. Mike C.*

        Anonymous tip to Gawker, The Consumerist, local media or something similar. We’ve had Hamilton Nolan drop by during the “Dinner for 40” job interview and that got widespread attention. Glassdoor reviews are always anonymous of course.

        Now obviously there is a risk involved, but the OP did mention that these warnings were being handed out to multiple people of various sizes, so I believe that would make it easier. Just don’t do it at work or on work time for your own protection.

        If nothing else OP, keep a record of everything related to this issue. What is said, what the expectations are, how other coworkers are treated and so on. If you end up leaving your job, you suddenly have a lot of information a blogger or reporter would put to good use.

  21. Monday*

    I’d be curious about clients’ reactions to this rule, if they were to learn of it. I’d be shocked if there weren’t some clients of this consulting company at size 10 and above (and the male equivalent)–so if the OP’s management is saying that isn’t consistent with its “brand,” aren’t they indirectly calling their clients/prospective clients distastefully fat too?

    1. LQ*

      I’d also wonder if the company was so focused on their brand that they weren’t sending out their best staff person. I don’t want subpar work so you can maintain your “brand”, I want the best work from whoever that is.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah, especially in management consulting. C-suite execs aren’t exactly the picture of health and vigor sometimes.

  22. Otter box*

    I would FLIP MY SH*T if someone told me that, especially a boss. I’m a size two now and have struggled with weight and body image, and I still occasionally get comments about my weight (some people think I could lose some and some think I’m too skinny. My doctor thinks I’m fine, and I’m happy where I am, btw). As a natural people pleaser I know I have a hard time putting people’s criticisms out of my mind. This is the kind of thing that has sent me to borderline eating-disorder-land in the past (never diagnosed, but I had some pretty unhealthy habits in college). If my boss were to tell me my weight was not acceptable, I am positive I would quit right then and there. No job is worth going through the shit I used to struggle with all over again. And when potential employers would want to know why I left my previous job, I’d tell them straight up, “my boss told me that I was too fat too represent their company professionally.” Ugh ugh ugh.

    Also, yes, find out if men have been told things like this too. I know in my workplace (sales) it is always only the women who are told to smile more, or do their hair more professionally, or iron their clothes better. It’s very possible there is a gender discrimination angle to pursue.

    1. Eden*

      Good grief Otter box, who on earth thinks you need to ‘lose some’ as a size 2?!!? What a wack society we live in.

      1. Otter box*

        Older female family members usually. There’s really no pleasing everybody, I’ve discovered, so just do what makes you happy :)

  23. soitgoes*

    I honestly think you should use numbers in the conversation. As in, “I am so-and-so tall and weigh such-and-such pounds. How much do you weigh? Should I get down to your exact weight? How much do managers A, B, and C weigh? Which one has the body that you would most like me to emulate?”

    I totally don’t think you should actually lose the weight, but I think it would help you call BS on this if you could quote your boss as telling you to lose a specific amount of weight.

    Maybe ask her if she’d spot you the cash for low-cal lunches and buy you new smaller clothes. Make it as ridiculous as possible.

    1. Stephanie*

      Maybe ask her if she’d spot you the cash for low-cal lunches and buy you new smaller clothes. Make it as ridiculous as possible.

      Ha, yeah. That might be my pissy resposne (in addition to aggressive job searching). “Ok, I’ve taken your request into consideration. I need to be reimbursed for $300/mo barre classes and have a clothing allowance at Lululemon.”

        1. Windchime*

          Seriously, that’s the picture I get when someone says “thin and edgy”. Someone with heavy eyeliner, a bag of bones and bursting with nervous, paranoid energy.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I went to “coke habit” for a reason. But maybe he just meant an asymmetrical haircut. Who knows?

          2. soitgoes*

            The suggestion to lose weight is especially strange considering that when you look around the typical office (or bar or library or grocery store), a size 10 is on the thinner end of the spectrum. Not that anyone should have to lose weight for a job, but I don’t think a size 10 should ping anyone’s radar as being a problem.

      1. plain jane*

        Except Lululemon’s founder is on record as saying that the clothing isn’t for people of a certain size (though 10-12 probably would squeak in).

        1. Stephanie*

          Heh, yeah. They don’t go above a size 12 pant (as I discovered the hard way). I was jokingly suggesting OP could ask for reimbursement for $100 yoga pants.

          1. plain jane*

            Sorry, yes, I got the humour, it was just doubly humorous to me because of the history for the brand and I wanted to share. (I checked once and was not in their target size, and the great thing about capitalism is that it’s a two way street, so I will never check again.)

            Beyond the obvious problems with this boss, I would also say that in my experience a fresh haircut, new glasses, and/or an good bra fitting lead to people asking if you’ve lost weight. It might be a strategy to survive for as long as it takes to get a new job. It sucks, but sometimes it takes a while to find the right spot.

    2. Dulcinea*

      Yes!!!!!!! I love this and I think OP should actually do it. Preferably in writing. “Dear manager: Thank you for your feedback last week about my weight. I really appreciate being given the opportunity to improve and grow, as I really love working at Company. However, I’m hoping you can give me some more specific guidance. I weigh X, am Y tall, wear size Z. What are the statistics I should be striving for? About how soon do you think I should aim to meet that goal? Any tips on how to achieve it? Again, thank you so much for brining this issue to my attention, I am really grateful for your feedback.”

      1. Dulcinea*

        I haven’t decided what I think you should do with the response you get but you should save both emails for some kind of future evidence/revenge.

    1. Anon for this*

      Uh oh. Is this a real thing? My husband has body dysmorphia and I hope it is limited to how he views himself and not how he views me.

      1. OhNo*

        I don’t know if it’s a real thing, but I do know quite a lot of people who hate their own bodies so much they take it out on everyone else (for example, someone who wants to lose weight but is having trouble thinks absolutely EVERYONE, even the size zero lady in the office, is fat). In my experience, it’s been pretty obvious behavior, so if you haven’t noticed any comments it may not be a problem.

  24. Elysian*

    I say this quite tongue in cheek, but can the OP use this ‘requirement’ to get the company to pay for a gym membership, personal trainer, and nutritional consultant? If she’s non-exempt she should be sure the company is paying her overtime for any hours she spends at the gym.


  25. Coco*

    It’s weird and troubling that so many people feel the need to add the qualifier, “but I’m not OBESE,” as if criticism of their weight would actually be legitimate in a work setting if they were obese.

    1. Otter box*

      Well, obesity *is* a disability and may qualify for ADA protection, so it is relevant here. But yes, I do think a lot of the time people use that qualifier to make obese people some big bad “other,” which is definitely a problem.

    2. Observer*

      Sometimes it’s a legitimate point, though. If this company really were focused on health and wellness, for instance, then it could be legitimate for them to have an issue with obesity, which is absolutely a health (NOT moral / character) issue.

      Of course, it’s a moot point here. The fact that people of all weights and sizes are being told to lose weight and the “thin and edgy” comment prove that “wellness” and even “fitness” have nothing to do with the matter.

      1. Coco*

        Actually, obesity isn’t “absolutely” a health issue. It is entirely possible to be obese under certain weight standards and not have any weight/size related health issues. In fact, body shaming can cause the kind of stress that leads to weight gain, unstable eating behavior, and emotional illness. An organization that is wellness focused should recognize that.

        1. ??*

          I absolutely agree that body-shaming’s useless at best and it won’t improve anyone’s health, but I seriously doubt that one can carry around hundreds of pounds of extra weight without being hurt by it.

            1. fposte*

              Right, but that’s a 25% difference for those people (of whom I am one, since I’m short); that’s a pretty significant increase.

              1. Coco*

                Huh? No, if you look at the link, “healthy” ends at 168 and “obese” begins at 203 for a person who is 5’9″. That’s a difference of 35 lbs. 35 is 21% of 168 and 17% of 203, but I don’t know how that’s relevant. The point is that plenty of people who are considered obese by certain standards do not necessarily have “hundreds of extra pounds,” and it’s entirely possible for those labeled obese to not have any weight or size related health issues.

                1. Bea W*

                  According to those charts my dad would have been “overweight” at 200 lbs and 6’1″. In reality he was thin as a rail at that weight!

                2. fposte*

                  You’re right, I was going to a calculator and messing around and not using that link, and I totally missed the “hundreds of pounds” thing you were responding to. Compared to that, 35 pounds is indeed “just 35 pounds.”

        2. Mander*


          Maybe the OP’s organisation should look into Health at Every Size:

          I’ll come right out and say that I’m really, really fat, and sure, it’s a health issue — mostly a mental health issue because of all the crap I’ve had to deal with over the years. I’m not even a “good fattie” who works out and eats healthy all the time, but I still don’t have any physical issues other than rising blood pressure when I encounter this kind of weight stigma.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      I always feel like a jerk when talking to health care professionals over the phone about my medical conditions because I always say “I’m not overweight.” This is because I have three conditions that are far more common in the overweight and the first line of defense is to lose weight. I’m actually on the low end of normal so that advise would not be helpful at all. Having the not-weight-triggered conditions really changes the treatment modality so it is key that they know. I just always feel like I’m saying “don’t think I’m fat though” as if fat were bad when what I’m trying to say is this is caused and treated by ways you may not be used to dealing with.

      1. dawbs*

        That has the evil (tangent, soapbox moment:) that when people are sick w/ the things that are associated w/weight problems, the thingy that makes them sick is often assumed to be something that could/should be cured by diet and exercise.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          So so true. Part of why I didn’t get diagnosed with one of my conditions for so long was because my doctor thought “you are thin, you couldn’t have x.” I think the flip side of that would mean if she had a patient who wasn’t thin who had x she would assume that the patient just wasn’t dieting/exercising enough to cure it and never consider the other cause that requires the different treatment.

          1. Coco*

            Wow, that is awful :/ Goes to show that fat people aren’t the only ones who suffer when people are ignorant about weight and size issues

      2. Coco*

        When you don’t say that, do you notice that the advice you’re given is aimed at a fat person? If not, maybe it’s not necessary to say. If so, that is fascinating and frustrating, but I guess might help you empathize with the experiences of fat people.

  26. Jeanne*

    You’re in Pennsylvania for goodness sake. Who are you consulting with that would care if you are thin and edgy? (Yes, I live in PA.) These people have really swelled heads about their own importance and their own looks. I agree with the people above who asked why did they hire you? They knew what you look like. Do they really hire people thinking they can then change their appearance? No matter my weight I would never look edgy. I’m too short. Can you grow taller?

    If they are targeting women only, please consult with an employment lawyer. I would have Admin’s conversation just out of curiosity. Is it possible there is a different problem they are concealing in this weight thing? Like they don’t want to give you a raise so they say you aren’t ready to work with clients.

    Good luck! I wish we could get an update on this one later in the year.

    1. Ali*

      I live in PA too and would LOVE to know where this is, especially if it’s in my part of the state. Then I know to never apply there…

      1. Just Visiting*

        Philadelphia? I’m originally from the Pittsburgh area and I’d find it hard to believe this happened anywhere in the western half of the state. Although I’m amused by the idea of someone scouting for “thin and EDGY” workers in Appalachia.

        1. Mrs. Badcrumble*

          If it’s Philadelphia, it’s gotta be either the Rittenhouse Square area, or out on the Main Line. From what I see everyday, the rest of the city could give a d*mn what you look like, so long as you’re not blocking traffic.

          1. Stephanie*

            I visited my friend who lives in Center City and attends school there. You could guess who was a student versus who wasn’t. And once I got outside Center City, it was a completely different look.

  27. Just Visiting*

    Get out now. Get out while you still have some shred of dignity and self-respect. The comments WILL get worse. I’d have been tempted to put my two weeks in after the CEO told me to lose weight; I would not feel safe in such a working environment. Until you can find another job, I’d feign ignorance: “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” “oh, but I HATE losing things.” Or just be blunt: “I like my body the way it is, and I would prefer not to talk about the size of my body with you.”

    1. fposte*

      This makes me mad enough that I might consider noting that there seems to be a habit of men commenting on female co-workers’ bodies at this workplace, and wouldn’t our clients want consultants who upheld federal law?

  28. meetoo*

    Just a few questions:
    What if someone has an illness or disability that causes them to gain weight? Or someone is taking medication that makes them gain or have difficult loosing weight? Would this be considered discrimination because of a disability? Or as others have mentioned eating disorders?

    If the OP or other coworkers develop health problems as a result of required weight loss (if they are underweight, get injured, develop an eating disorder) would that be covered by workers compensation?

    Could this eventually meet the requirements for a hostile work environment if management keeps pressing the issue or is only requiring this of the women?

    OP, you need to document as much as you can just in case. You never know if you might need it.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was thinking this too. If someone has an anxiety condition and a side effect is stress weight gain, then it seems like it would be an ADA issue.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      This. I have two good friends that gained a massive amount of weight because of the **treatment** for a medical condition. In one case the person was given steroids to combat anaphylactic allergies. In the other, the person was given prednisone to combat the side effects of drugs for a congenital heart defect. Both women exercise, but anyone looking at them would call them obese.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        Ugh, prednisone is the devil. It is such a miraculous drug but has such horrendous side effects. I have a love hate, mostly hate, relationship with it.

      2. Poe*

        I’m on a medication that I will be on for the rest of my life (unless some altruistic drug company comes up with something new for a condition that very few people have) that made me gain 60 pounds in the first month I was on it. That 40 pounds is here to stay, because it’s either continue to live or lose 60 pounds. The comments I got on my initial weight gain were absolutely horrific. Do I look like a model? No. Is it your business to point it out? No. Do I want to talk about it? No. What is wrong with people?!

    3. Katie the Fed*

      I was wondering this too. I have an honest-to-god diagnosed hypothyroid condition and even with treatment it’s an absolute bitch to lose weight, and the slightest misstep results in a gain. Could they make weight loss a condition of employment in that circumstance?

      Also, fuck them. No seriously. Fuck these people.

  29. Allison (not AAM!)*

    Wondering if the OP was the same size that she is now when she was hired…and was anything mentioned about weight or lifestyle during the interview process? I would presume that they hired you for your qualifications – they need to treat you based on them. What an offensive ass. I’d be looking for something else myself.

    1. Ali*

      Yep. Even my second company, where health and wellness are a focus (not weight and being super thin either), did not ask me about my weight and lifestyle when they initially talked to me. They told me about what I’d be doing in the internship and hired me. End of story.

      Now, I do talk to my coworkers about exercise and good eating options, but there’s no judgment. Although I did say above I’m a little paranoid and well aware of the fact that everyone I work with is thinner and already has the perfect eating discipline I wish I had.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      That’s what I’m thinking about. If size or appearance was such an issue for the company and IF the OP was the same size as when she was hired was anything about this culture mentioned?

    3. MissDisplaced*

      OP should beware though. I once worked for a “diet” company and while I was hired for my qualifications in a different area from the coaching and nutrition, these situations can quickly devolve into outright bullying and harassment if you don’t fit the “model” of the company image. It got so bad that everything I ate or drank (a Diet Coke, my sandwich) was scrutinized and critiqued and commented upon. By the time I left, I was down to eating nothing all day except for the saltine crackers I kept hidden in my desk.
      I have no way of knowing if the OP’s company is as bad, but it doesn’t sound encouraging if they are being so forthright about their disgust for anyone perceived as being “fat” to their eyes.

  30. John*

    Sadly, this sounds like a no-win for OP. The leadership of this organization have a very strong and superficial bias. I hate to have to tell someone they need to think seriously about moving on but, unless you’re willing to get yourself to 118 lbs, I suspect you will always be stuck on the sidelines (behind the curtain). I can’t imagine what a conversation with the higher-ups will accomplish, sadly.

    Really stupid management.

    (As an aside, a good friend who is much larger than a size 10/12 worked many years in a fairly senior role for a major weight-loss organization. Despite the potential reputational impact, they had no issue with it. She was an outstanding contributor and that’s all they saw.)

  31. KJR*

    I hate these people and I don’t even know them. I would be tempted to ask if they are going to pay for your therapy when you slide into eating disorder territory in order to lose weight. As someone who is in recovery and fights this every damn day, I would be curious to hear that answer. They have no idea what they are getting themselves (or you) into by suggesting this.

  32. mortorph*

    This post and its comments have brought up some thoughts I’ve been thinking a lot about how we, as a culture, seem to accept emotional abuse at work – where we would never accept it in our personal lives. Can you imagine your significant other telling you that they want you to represent their image of a relationship, and that means being thin and edgy? How many of us wouldn’t put up with that in our relationships, but would accept it at work because of a number of reasons: pay, colleagues, not many other options in town, etc. I’m glad to hear that most people can see how these types of comments can spiral out of control.

    1. fposte*

      I think a lot of people do put up with that in relationships, though, and I think financial dependence–whether it be a paycheck or a household contribution–often affects what you’ll put up with.

    2. Nelle H.L.*

      I have been saying this very thing for years. An unhealthy relationship is just as unhealthy in a professional setting as it is in a personal one. Abuse is abuse, no matter which party signs the paycheck.

      1. mortorph*

        I agree, its just that its often not seen as abuse in professional situations. After reading many situations similar to this where the actions are legal, but not ethical, the action is often brushed aside as “company values” rather than calling it what it is. However, I will be the first person to say that this is not a clear cut or black and white issue. I just think the professional world shouldn’t be a class unto itself.

  33. CoffeeLover*

    This is a crappy situation but there is a bright side to this… at least they told you outright. There are companies out there that take looks into consideration where they have no impact on the actual work you do. You can’t advance in these companies to more senior roles without being good looking to some extent. I’m not condoning this action, but it’s a reality. Usually it’s an unwritten rule, but at least your company has come right out and said this is what they expect. Otherwise, you would be left wondering why you haven’t been given certain opportunities. I think it’s now up to you whether you choose to conform to these standards (if you can or want to) or whether you look for a company that doesn’t place such value on looks. I actually think talking to your boss about it more is a bit of a waste of time since the company has made it’s desires clear.

    There have been studies published saying people are more willing to trust and place confidence in good looking people. This is where the companies who take looks into consideration get the idea.

    Also I personally don’t think a size 12 is an unattractive size, but obviously the company does.

    1. John*

      Great point. It stings now but does the OP a favor in the long term. As my therapist might said, “Now that they’ve shown you who they are, take them at their word.”

  34. Jill*

    How you present yourself matters in the work world. There is a business interest in looking fit.

    If the company culture is one of healthy living, I suggest you leave for a company whose culture is better in line with your own. Choose wisely, since the next manager may not do you the courtesy of informing you WHY you aren’t getting that promotion.

    1. AVP*

      How you present yourself has very little to do with what you look like or your natural body type is.

      1. Jill*

        How you take care of yourself is a primary factor of your physical presentation, along with hygiene and cosmetics/clothes. If you sell health services or designer goods, it may not be a good idea to go into a client meeting with dirty finger nails, smelling of smoke, and barely-not-obese.

        1. OhNo*

          “barely-not-obese”? I hope you’re not referring to the OP’s stated size with that comment, because she is likely nowhere near obese at a size 10. Also, you have no idea whether people do (or do not) “take care of” themselves based on appearance alone. There are people that could ingest nothing but celery and water and still be a size ten.

          You are very close to conflating health with appearance, when there is really a big difference between the two. Take a look at the other comments here, if you have the time. A lot of them have more information and explanations on the difference and why it is important.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              Not really.

              For example, when my parents were young marrieds, my father noticed that when he and my mother were eating the same amounts of food and had a similar activity level, that he would lose weight and she would gain. When I was in college and kept track of activity and calories for a class, I was maintaining my weight by ingesting about 800-1000 calories less per day than I used.

              Weight loss is not simply a matter of “eat less, exercise more.” There is a LOT more to weight gain and loss than calories in/calories out and not all of that is something we can choose.

            2. Mike C.*

              You know what else is a choice? Not judging other people because they don’t fit your narrow standards of beauty.

              1. Sarah*

                So, obviously there are a few very rare conditions which would cause crazy weight gain. Possibly having an undiagnosed tumor on your thyroid? I just wanted to state, for the record. A lot of people say “I have hypothyroidism and that is why I am overweight” Nothing to be done about it.. In actuality, hypothyroidism may cause you to fluctuate maybe 10 lbs, BUT once its diagnosed and you start synthroid and it levels out, its no longer a problem/excuse. I see SO many many people say that they have this condition when even their bloodwork comes back normal! Drives me up a freaking wall. My boyfriend was diagnosed 2 years ago, he’s never had a problem gaining or losing weight, whichever he’s doing at the time. And you completely stop seeing negative effects like sleepiness once your thyroid levels off with the meds.

                1. Hypothyroid lurker*

                  Sarah, I wish it were that simple. Your boyfriend sounds like he is fortunate in this regard, but many people with hypothyroid continue to struggle with symptoms even once on medication, especially if they have other metabolic/hormonal issues. Some people cannot be adequately treated on levothyroxine/T4 (synthroid) alone and have to have a more complex regimen that incorporates liothyronine/T3 as well. Many thyroid patients struggle with the symptoms of their condition their entire lives, and their struggles are not helped by strangers being annoyed at them for having a disease.

                2. Katie the Fed*

                  Sarah, where did you get your degree in endocrinology? Because unless you’re a doctor who treats this on a regular basis or is publishing in peer reviewed journals, you should probably keep your opinions to yourself.

                  First off, synthroid (T4) is not adequate for many people, and they need T3 as well. Some people it never really “levels out” and they have to get their dosage adjusted every 3 to 6 months. And even with treatment it’s a constant struggle to lose weight and keep from gaining it. You can call me delusional and say I’m making excuses, but I have literally tracked every single calorie for years and rarely eat more than 1500 a day and exercise every day and I’m lucky to lose a half pound a month.

                  Also, TSH is an outdated bloodtest, and many people can be hypothyroid and have a TSH in the “normal’ range. A full thyroid panel showing T3 and T4 is a far better diagnostic tool.

                  But that’s probably all in my imagination, right? I’ll be sure to let my doctor know that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about either because your boyfriend hasn’t had any of those problems.

        2. fposte*

          I think you don’t understand the technical meaning of the word “obese.” Unless you think the OP is under 3 feet tall, it’s be darn near impossible for her to be bordering on clinical obesity at a size 10 or 12.

          I also think if you believe that a size 10 should count as obese regardless of the medical definition, that’s a reflection of your own body issues rather than a viable assessment.

    2. Frances*

      Prizing a certain pants size above all else is not ” a culture of healthy living,” it’s a culture of obsession with a ridiculous aesthetic that has nothing to do with one’s actual health.

      1. Jill*

        I think that it is harmful and unethical to force a legitimate business not jeopardize their profit-making ability to accommodate the dubious lifestyle choices of its employees.

        1. Allison (not AAM!)*

          DUBIOUS lifestyle?????? Would that be one you don’t agree with? There are much more important qualifications other that weight or what a person does in their own free time as long as it is not harmful to the company or any person. Which is why I and many other “not-size-two” people are gainfully employed and very well-respected in our positions. This is a case of “EMPLOYER – MYOB”.

          1. Jill*

            In this case, it IS harmful to at least the company, which is why the OP was approached in the first place.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              How do you know that it is, though? It seems pretty unlikely that a management consulting firm in PA has a client base who won’t want to work with a size 10 person.

              Also, some companies might claim that it’s harmful to them to have people over 50 working there, or different races, or people with disabilities that don’t interfere with their ability to perform the job. We all agree that’s not okay, right? Why is this different?

              I think you’re going to argue it’s different because this is a “choice,” but a size 10 hardly screams “I make horrible decisions.” But even if she were much larger, there’s no way of knowing whether it’s through lack of discipline, medical conditions, genetics, or something else entirely. And either way, I’m not sure why it’s relevant.

              1. Jill*

                We can make assumptions about OP’s case all day long. It is impossible to tell whether the manager is an incompetent bully or a skilled business developer.

                But what can be said for certain is that: IF the OP’s appearance is bad for business and IF the OP can change her appearance, the manager has every right and responsibility to push for change.

                Also, I don’t think it’s even close to impossible to tell if someone can or cannot lose weight, or even difficult. If it’s a latent medical issue that’s causing the weight gain, OP should have an opportunity to discuss this with her manager.

                1. Katie the Fed*

                  “Also, I don’t think it’s even close to impossible to tell if someone can or cannot lose weight, or even difficult. If it’s a latent medical issue that’s causing the weight gain, OP should have an opportunity to discuss this with her manager.”

                  You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Seriously, you honestly think you can tell from looking if someone is on prednisone, or has a thyroid condition, or any number of other factors that are far more complicated than choice?

                  I also don’t OWE my manager a reveal of my health issues because he/she wants to pass judgment on me and make assumptions about my lifestyle choices.

                2. fposte*

                  You’re really making me scratch my head here. Such a right would mean he could also require her to wear prosthetic breasts or get a boob job following a mastectomy, since they’re changeable statuses, if he believes that her appearance would be otherwise bad for business.

                  What I think you’re trying to get at is the smoky world of bona fide occupational qualifications, the concept that allows appearance and even sexiness to be considered if it’s necessary to what the business is for; it’s been pretty clearly established that customer preference is not enough for appearance to be a bona fide occupational qualification for a business that’s not designed to sell those characteristics. (Hooters, for instance, contends that appearance is what it’s designed to deliver and thus looks are a BFOQ for them, so people who argue that it’s just another restaurant are disagreeing with Hooters’ own philosophy. However, it looks like there’s a current case against them by a waitress who was fired for not wearing a wig after her brain surgery.)

                3. A Teacher*

                  It’s not my bosses business what I do or don’t do in regards to exercise or eating. It’s not like she’s coming to work stoned or drunk–that’s her bosses business. You are so out of touch with the acceptable norms of society, I don’t even know where to start.

                4. Mike C.*

                  Safety regulations are incredibly expensive for businesses, as are policies such as Worker’s Compensation. I take it you’re against those as well?

                5. Mike C.*

                  Would you like to share the results of your last PAP smear with your supervisor? Does that even sound like a reasonable request to you?

              2. Us, Too*

                I wondered about Jill’s comment in this regard, too. How would you know that it is harmful?

                In fact, I wonder whether or not having this policy of “thin and edgy” wouldn’t in and of itself be harmful to the bottom line in most management consulting contexts. How would most clients feel knowing that they are being limited to “thin and edgy” consultants who may be otherwise less qualified than their boring and/or dumpy looking colleagues?

                I just don’t understand.

              3. AcademicAnon*

                I’m fat mainly through genetics, with some unhealthy eating on top of it. And my fat to the point of obese great-grandmother lived to 99, and what killed her wasn’t something related to her weight, so for me fat has been proven not to be unhealthy in certain situations.

            2. fposte*

              No, it’s disliked by some people at her company. That’s not the same thing as being harmful to it.

        2. A teacher*

          WHAT? I never pull out my credentials but seriously, my BS in exercise science, MS in athletic training, and national certification with state medical license in athletic training says this is not a good train of thought. Way more than choice goes into how a person looks. If you understand physiology, you get that and wouldn’t make the comments you’re making.

        3. Lora*

          I’m vaguely curious why/how you know they are a “legitimate business,” but I sort of don’t want to know what brought about that qualifier.

          For all we know, they are money laundering, overcharging clients, a front for a cocaine cartel (which admittedly would explain a lot)…when businesses of any kind start bringing the crazy, I always wonder what other shenanigans they are up to. It’s never limited to just one thing.

    3. JoAnna*

      Perhaps the company should offer free cosmetic surgery to all employees if they prioritize looking fit over actually being fit.

    4. A teacher*

      But this isn’t a focus on being healthy. I’ve worked with many, many athletes that “look” healthy and yet their overweight teammate that sits the bench is actually healthier. I’ve also worked with work comp patients, iron workers and welders in particular that could eat and eat for lunch, food loaded with salt and other clog inducing ingredients but they looked healthy because of the work they did. Office workers that might have a weak core and a slight muffin top were actually healthier because they ate better food, were more physically active out of work, but just weren’t in jobs that were as physical. How you look and how healthy you are do not have a direct relationship.

    5. Anon 1*

      Are you earnest in your comments? From my read your post is so purposefully inflammatory it reads like trolling.

    6. nep*

      As some have stated earlier, it doesn’t sound like the company’s culture is one of healthy living. Rather it’s fixed on some superficial image of what a woman ‘should’ look like to be attractive / acceptable. Nothing to do with health.

  35. Janis*

    Honestly, is your manager Regina George from Mean Girls? Do you work for the Elite Model Agency? Then I think you should rethink the whole concept of loving your job. I would rather gouge my own eyes out than work there. If this goes with the territory and the CEO, the flipping *C*E*O* !!!!! (who should have about 0ne million other things to worry about) is getting in on the act then it’s a hopeless case. Did Tina Fey write the script? There will be comeuppance and a happy ending, but not without unnecessary suffering before that.

    I’m with someone else who said they would indeed be “edgy” if they were thin … due to hunger!

    1. mortorph*

      I used to work with a woman who never ate – and proudly voiced this to the rest of our team. She was always in a bad mood, always quick to snap. Yes, I think that is an appropriate way to describe ‘edgy’.

    2. Heather*

      It would be awesome if OP stood up at a staff meeting and said, “Who here has felt personally victimized by ?”

      1. afiendishthingy*


        Seriously though, I would try to get them to say this crap in writing, discreetly out them to Gawker, and look for a non-evil employer.

  36. Student*

    OP, you really do need to lose some weight.

    You need to lose about 130 pounds of lousy management.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I was thinking similarly. OP, tell them you will be happy to lose weight and you are going to start with the millstone around your neck labeled “JOB”.

  37. Nelle H.L.*

    I’ve been on a year long job-hunt, and I’m starting to suspect that “professional appearance” is code for a lot of things, “don’t you dare be even 5 pounds overweight” being one of them. (“Don’t be over 35” is another.) The OP’s letter is just a more blatant example of what’s happening more and more, as a tool for employers to screen out applicants that might actually use their health insurance benefits.

    1. Sharm*

      But then why did they even hire her if they were going to be such jerks about it? Why put her through the trouble if looks were so important they’d step so far out of the bounds of reasonable? (Not attacking, btw! Just wishing this could have been avoided from the beginning, though what’s done is done.)

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I wonder at this as well, but maybe these duties are new, or they were hired via Skype or other interview method as it sounds like a remote job.

  38. Peep!*

    I’m such a grouch or contrarian — personally, I don’t want to be consulted by someone who looks like Goth Barbie. Wouldn’t a client feel comfortable with average human beings? I mean, maybe there are people who unconsciously are impressed by skinny edgy people, but aren’t the majority of people out in the workforce just regular old people? idk. Grumble.

      1. Rose*

        I don’t think Peep meant to diss all thin people; it’s just that OP’s managers phrasing (thin and edgy) brings to mind a certain, kind of idiotic, picture.

        1. Peep!*

          Exactly, Rose — thank you. I guess I just started writing without clarifying enough.

          I just meant like, I wouldn’t want to be consulted by a team of Barbie clones that all looked and dressed alike. It would be kinda weird to have everyone at the consulting firm look like clones of each other, no matter if they were skinny or larger or short or tall or whatever.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I would pick right up on that if everyone that I met in a company had a certain look about them.

      I remember when I was 19 I applied for a retail job.I went in several times, and I noticed that every. single. woman that worked there was quite chesty. My intuition said run and I did.

      1. Peep!*

        Yes! Exactly! It’s so weird to go walk in somewhere and see everyone looking identical. I’m glad your spidey-sense tingled and told you to get the heck out — probably saved you a lot of grief.

        1. Peep!*

          Ha, you’re right! XD I can imagine someone having to have the “appropriate workplace dress code” conversation if the person used Monster High as their wardrobe inspiration… Hahah.

  39. OfCounsel1968*

    This is not good advice.

    If weight and appearance don’t establish a protected class, you’re essentially advising the reader to challenge her superiors who have already made it clear what their expectations are. At that point, the employer (who, by the way, disgusts me with their attitude toward the non-wafer-thin) can claim insubordination and terminate the reader for cause.

    This situation is, sadly, a lose-lose (no pun intended) case for the reader unless she follows through on an effort to meet whatever aesthetic expectations this monster of an employer has for her appearance. Maintaining her weight is going to keep her from advancement. Unless she and her employer are content with her remaining indefinitely in the position she currently occupies, there’s going to be a reckoning eventually and that’s not going to go well for the reader. On the other hand, if she presses the matter further and attempts to point out the error of her employer’s ways, she’s likely going to be canned. It doesn’t sound like this employer possesses the intellect to engage in rational dialogue if he/she is so fixated on appearance being a driver of success.

    I don’t know that there’s any advice that’s going to produce a better result for the reader, but I’m quite sure the advice rendered here is not constructive.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They don’t need cause to fire her. They can fire her for being fat, or laughing weird, or no reason at all.

      It’s reasonable to assume that adults can have calm, rational conversations with other adults to better understand their point of view. That’s not in and of itself insubordination.

      1. OfCounsel1968*

        I most respectfully disagree.

        Telling a superior “I’m unlikely to alter my body as long as I’m at a healthy weight, and I’d really rather my weight not be up for discussion at work — but I want to understand your thoughts here,” is both patronizing and insubordinate. You don’t tell your boss what you’d rather not be up for discussion at work. I can’t speak to the calm portion of your reply, but it sure looks to me like the “rational” ship has sailed if a manager feels a size 10/12 woman is not in sufficient physical shape for a consulting job outside the physical fitness industry.

        I have dealt with and/or represented plenty of irrational employers in my career and I can tell you that there are some – especially in employment at-will situations – who will fire someone the moment the employee even suggests that the employer’s line of thinking is inappropriate or incorrect. The company’s leadership seems to be obsessed with fitness. Encouraging an employee who was essentially just denied a promotion to question that obsession – especially in an at-will position – just doesn’t come off as solid career advice.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I mean, sure, there are crazy employers who might fire you over a reasonable conversation — but that’s true of every scenario we deal with here. It’s far more useful to conduct yourself like a professional adult, unless you have reason to believe that your employer will flip out on you for doing so (in which case you probably either need to keep your head down or just leave).

          But I really disagree that telling a manager “I’m unlikely to alter my body as long as I’m at a healthy weight, and I’d really rather my weight not be up for discussion at work — but I want to understand your thoughts here” is patronizing or insubordinate. I don’t find it either, although it certainly depends on your tone and demeanor during the conversation (which is true of most things, of course).

          1. Mike C.*

            I think the issue here is that anyone who would take your advice in a calm and reasonable manner is also the type of person who wouldn’t hold employees to this crazy body standard in the first place.

            1. CandyFloss*

              Exactly. You;re dealing with crazy in this case, so holding the expectation that you can have a reasonable discussion with them is setting yourself up for disappointment.

    2. fposte*

      I think this is the difference between a lawyer’s POV and a manager’s POV. Lawyers tend to argue for minimizing every possible active risk–they’re thinking defensively, which is what they’re paid for, so fair enough. But as with finances, that exposes you to passive risk, which is a risk lawyers don’t deal with as much and therefore don’t tend to worry about–the risk of not achieving, the risk of not getting what you want, the risk of stasis in a progressing world.

      Yes, if the OP speaks up, it could be viewed as insubordination, which could lead to her being fired, which could be construed as a firing for cause by unemployment. That’s not unreasonable to point out. But the OP is the one on the ground who knows the people she’s talking to, and she’s likely to know better than you do the likelihood of her boss firing her on the spot for raising the question; she certainly knows better than you do what level of risk she’s prepared to take in a situation that’s becoming difficult for her to tolerate.

    3. Kelly L.*

      There’s a third option you don’t mention, OfCounsel1968. Getting the hell out of that environment as soon as she can line up something else. She’s not condemned to either diet or stay where she is forever.

  40. MissDisplaced*

    I find this whole scenario horrible, but it’s probably the norm for people who work in the fashion industry or closely associated fields representing fashion. I’ve known it to also be true for a few retailers, restaurants and health/diet companies who want to maintain their “thin is in” brand image down to the employee level. I find it absolutely terrible, but unfortunately there is probably nothing you can do about it. If they are going to pick or give you bad reviews because you won’t lose weight to comply, there might not be anything you can do (remember the days when flight attendants had to be under a certain weight limit?). This just doesn’t seem right to me. People do not have control over their “size,” and perceived norms about what is deemed to be fat or thin are totally arbitrary in different societies.

    1. Jen RO*

      Really? People do not have control over their size? Don’t you think this is going too far in the other direction? Maybe I couldn’t look like Twiggy, but I absolutely do have control over my size, and pastries and sweets are the reason I gained weight, not the weight-gain fairies.

      1. Poe*

        Hi *waves* The weight-gain fairies (also known as the medication that keeps me alive) gave me 60 pounds. It won’t move. So I think it’s only fair to say “some people have some control over their size”. I don’t.

        1. Jen RO*

          Some people are on medication and so on, but not *most* people and definitely not *all* people as implied in MissDisplaced’s post.

          1. Helka*

            It would be more accurate to say that people have varying measures of control over their size. It isn’t a zero-sum game — ie, you don’t either have complete 100% control or 0% control with nothing in between. Various factors make it easier or harder to manage, with near-absolute control and near-absolute lack of control at either end of a bell curve.

            Factors like genetics, medication, disability, hormonal fluctuations, age, muscle mass, etc etc will make losing weight easier or harder for various people.

            But it’s also worth noting that even for people who do have control over their weight, making any substantial change in that weight without resorting to extremely unhealthy methods (disordered eating or exercising, developing a drug habit, etc) will usually be a process of years. So even people who have fairly good control over their weight aren’t going to work miracles overnight.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        Saying people don’t have control over their size is the same as the employer saying we want you to be thin and edgy. Whatever the hell “that” means. And NO, people do NOT have control over their height and bone structure (that’s called SIZE) all of which would or could fit into what they deem “thin and edgy”

        I’m 5’2″ and even back when I weighed 105 pounds I would never have been deemed “petite,” “thin” or “edgy.”
        OK well maybe the edgy part.

  41. Katie the Fed*

    This entire post and the discussion is making me irrationally angry. Like Hulk Smash angry. I get that people make (often wrong) assumptions based on our appearance, but it just seems like the standard is often so ridiculously high for women. Maybe they’re saying the same thing to men, but I seriously doubt it. I HATE that I’m a very smart, hardworking professional that people will write off as lazy or incompetent because I’m overweight.


    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah. I agree.

      I would like to see what proof they have that their clients only like skinny, edgy people.
      The rest of us can’t give management advice because we are too fat/old/ugly???

      Just a point of curiosity, do they only take on skinny, edgy clients?

      If this is such a deal, why didn’t they tell OP when they hired her, so she could decide then? It just feels manipulative “Lose weight or you don’t get to work with our clients.” Then why hire people and tell them they will be working with clients?

      Are they telling everyone in the company or just OP?

      OP, keep loving your work [meaning your career, your field] but this particular job is sending up red flags, big time. I think you could find a place to do similar work that actually had decent people running it. You know, if a friend said to you, “My boyfriend/girlfriend said that I had to lose weight or he would not be seen in public with me,” you’d start to get knots in your stomach about their relationship.

    2. NylaW*

      Same on all counts, including the hypothyroidism (yay). I’ve been avoiding this thread since I posted because of it. But I felt compelled to come back because this topic hits very close to home. I’m disgusted anyone would defend that employer.

    3. Poe*

      I stopped commenting here because I realized that the advice, comments etc. were aimed at “rockstar” employees, which I am not and never will be. I love Allison, but I just fell out of touch with the commenters because I don’t have the life or options that fit in with the general tune of things here. This post made me angry enough to comment, but then I just threw my hands up because the “leave, now” thing is just so far out of my frame of reference that I can’t imagine giving someone that advice. So I am doubly hulk-smashy: because appearance is even an argument, and because the assumption that anyone can leave at any time is so, so elitist. It sounds trite, but the rockstars only have options because there are others of us that are mediocre/average despite our best efforts.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        Try reading “Leave now” as “Start looking for another job now,” which is what I think it is usually intended to convey. It’s a little less unrealistic that way.

      2. Career Counselorette*

        And can I just add that rockstar job performance does not necessarily equal job search savvy. I see people who do amazing work at work absolutely shit the bed when they have to leave a job gracefully or look for a new one. It’s possible to be a totally average employee who understands when it’s time to look for something else and does so in a realistic and well-planned way. You have options if you do the prep work, not just if you’re a rockstar.

      3. Observer*

        As Tomato points out “leave now” doesn’t mean leave without a job, but start looking this minute. It’s extremely rare that someone cannot start looking – or making other changes that make them more hireable. And, in this type of situation, it’s not an unreasonable suggestion. Especially since the pressure is really to do something that would actually be quite harmful to her.

  42. Illini02*

    Devil’s advocate here… Do people think there ever is actually cause to put your more traditionally attractive people front and center? I mean, lets look at things like pharmaceutical sales. A good portion of those people, especially the ones just starting out are really good looking. I’m sure they have learned that these better looking people make more sales on average, or they wouldn’t do it. I get that people don’t think its fair, but I think it makes a lot of sense, business wise, even if not ethically. Restaurant like hooters made a name for themselves this way, but even in retail, I don’t really think its the worst possible thing, if it helps the company’s bottom line. Now to be clear, I’m not just ok with this in terms of attractiveness either. If its say a hip hop clothing store in NYC, well I don’t necessarily think the cutest southern white girl would be the best “face” of their brand either. Its all about the image a company is trying to project.

    1. annie*

      My observation in the hospitality industry – it does not matter as much as people think it does. What people want, for the most part, is an experienced and skilled waitress or bartender who gets their order right and fast. The old grizzled guy beats the cute young girl every time, and their tips reflect it over the long run. (That is, yes, there may be some guy dropping lots of money on the cute bartender girl for one night, but overall, experienced does better over the course of the month.)

      1. Illini02*

        I think it really depends on the type of place you are referring to. A high end restaurant or bar, I definitely agree. A sports bar? I’m not as sure. Regardless though, my point is that some people better reflect a company’s brand than others, so I don’t know that its “wrong” to put those people front and center. Going back to retail for a sec. I’m a pretty straight laced sporty guy in my early 30s. I’m guessing a store like hot topic wouldn’t be chomping at the bit to put me out front, even though with my experience may be better. I don’t reflect the style or the target demographic. Are they wrong for doing this? Or just doing whats best for business?

    2. Kelly L.*

      Businesses like Hooters, if I’m not mistaken, classify their waitresses as “entertainers,” and so they are technically being cast rather than hired in the usual way, which gives them a lot more legal leeway to dictate appearance. Disney World does the same, though with a different aesthetic. If the OP’s business wants models, they should hire models explicitly.

    3. soitgoes*

      The discussion about ethics and whatnot is moot because, by my observations, these sorts of jobs are self-selective. People with skills and ideas don’t want to work in sales any longer than it takes to turn it into a decent resume bullet point. People who are content to make money off of their looks (who aren’t automatically less smart or skilled, but are content to work in a niche that doesn’t hold them to high expectations) don’t mind taking these public-facing jobs.

      That said, I don’t think we can go further without knowing more details about the OP’s job. If she’s representing a gym, I would expect her to be toned and perhaps on the thinner end of average. If she’s representing an apparel company, I need to believe her if she says her body looks nice in the clothes. It might be that she accidentally found herself in an industry that tends to naturally draw in people who already like to work out and eat meticulously.

        1. soitgoes*

          But in what specific industry? Is there a client who’s in a fitness-related industry? It’s relevant to the conversation. Because if one of the clients is a gym, it’s not unreasonable that they only want consultants who go to gyms regularly and already have that kind of experience.

    4. Lora*

      Re: pharmaceutical sales

      On behalf of pharma R&D everywhere, we would respectfully ask that the marketing and sales departments start hiring for people who are capable of reading and comprehending federal and international laws rather than looks.

      Every time we have to sit through a company-wide two hour presentation about Why Bribery Is Wrong, we wonder what kind of dimwitted coconut-heads think that selling pharmaceuticals == dealing drugs.

    5. Observer*

      It’s a moot point in this case. I get that even in management consulting, you need someone who looks put together and even polished, and would probably prefer someone reasonably attractive. But I can’t imagine a management consulting “brand” that’s best reflected by “Thin and edgy”. It’s also in direct contradiction to their claims of being interested in “health”.

  43. Sarah*

    I just completed a half ironman. I am 5’4″ and 140 pounds. I am an 8-10 (8 in hips, 10 in legs b/c they are all muscle). I can walk out the door and run 10 miles any time I wish. Yet, I would never describe myself as “thin and edgy.” Women I see in ironman competitions are slender, yes, but not thin. All muscle maybe, but not thin.

    I would not necessarily equate thin to healthy.

  44. smilingswan*

    I’m horrified. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything more egregious coming from anyone’s manager. Ever.

  45. smilingswan*

    I just realized that at my last on-site job interview, I felt a moment of relief when I saw that some of the management team and other staff members were also overweight. I remember thinking that at least they probably wouldn’t let my weight (I’m a size 20) influence their hiring decision. I had forgotten that until now. Has anyone else felt this?

    1. Kelly L.*

      Yes. I’ve felt the same way about seeing glasses and long (tidy) hair on staff members.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yes! I’m a size 16 and always feel kind of self-conscious in suits (the jackets always seem to add bulk and make me look matronly), so I do kind of relax if my interviewer isn’t rail thin.

    3. Just Visiting*

      At my last interview for a university job all of the interviewers were wearing casual clothes and had several visible tattoos apiece. I felt instantly at ease. Not quite the same thing as size (I have 100% control over having tattoos and preferring casual clothing), but same kind of emotion.

  46. Befuddled Squirrel*

    I’m disturbed by the trend of companies getting more invasive about employees’ health. It’s often done under the guise of “promoting health and wellness”, but I’m sure the aim is to weed out employees who might use their health care benefits.

    Promoting health is good, but if you take it too far, you run the risk of discriminating against people with disabilities.

  47. Jessica*

    I know this comment may get me into trouble, that’s not my intention, but in one way, they’re (the employer) at least being honest about something that is happening everywhere all the time. I was a size 6/8 for most of my life and for the past year I’ve been a size 16, not sure what happened to cause the weight gain except getting older. As a woman at my size, it’s almost impossible to find clothes that I like (J. Crew, Anthropologie, Lululemon only carry up to a size 12 in store-and who wants to buy clothes without trying them on??) In daily life I am ignored and definitely treated differently than when I was a smaller size and professionally, it’s something I’m judged for. All women and possibly men are judged for their weight among other things that have nothing to do with their ability to do the job. This is widely studied and looking at the women who’ve made it to the top compared to the men…the women are almost never above a size 6. This isn’t fair or right, but it is true. I would argue that most jobs are giving women opportunities or not based on their looks and weight, they just won’t be as honest about it.

    1. CandyFloss*

      By the this rationale though, the KKK and the Nazis should get a bit of a pass because at least they are being honest. Obviously I am using extreme examples there and those groups not only thought and said unimaginable horrible things, they did them. My point is that No, being honest about the shitty opinions one has doesn’t make them any less shitty. I agree with you that many if not most employers have the same prejudices about overweight people but I don’t think saying it out loud makes them somehow less distasteful.

      1. Jessica*

        I dont think it furthers any open discussion of a real issue that isnt yet governed by laws and does hurt overweight women by bringing the kkk or nazis or even emotions into it. Should I be insulted that J Crew is telling me I should be a size 12 or under? Maybe. Are they Nazi’s? Not really the same thing right? But if we arent protesting what they do or getting upset in general at this trend, it’s kind of hypycritical to hate on this one employer. Also, insulting people or severely judging the opinion of another (lots if people apparently really have differing views on weight, health, and beauty) doesn’t lead to open and honest discourse which will be necessary if we ever want to change how professional women are treated. Why is appearance so linked to how women are judged? How can we change that? That’s a better conversation to have.

        1. Candy Floss*

          You ignored my point even though I stated it clearly, and you focused on my extreme examples, despite my saying “these are extreme examples and my point is…”. Which leads me to believe further conversation would be unproductive.

    2. LCL*

      I have dropped 40 lbs so far for health reasons, and I sure don’t preach about weight loss. But all of a sudden I get more attention and better service in shops, and at work, and in random encounters. I am saddened to have my suspicions confirmed about how bigger people are treated, and I tell people I haven’t changed, I’m still the same old jerk they know.

    3. Rose*

      I think your comment is thoughtful, and I don’t see why it should get you in trouble. It’s a valid thing to bring up.

      I just disagree, because I don’t think they’re just “being honest” though. I think that they are also the very perpetrators of bad behavior. It’s the difference between a good person saying “I know that I judge black people differently; according to research almost every white person does,” and a very racist person saying “fuck ya I judge blacks!”

      The honest truth is thinner women are more likely to get promoted etc. The PROBLEM is that this company is limiting OP’s ability to move up professionally based on her size. They’re not just saying an honest fact; they’re also doing a shitty thing.

      1. Helka*

        It’s the difference between a good person saying “I know that I judge black people differently; according to research almost every white person does,” and a very racist person saying “fuck ya I judge blacks!”

        I think that “good” person in your example is only good if the rest of that sentence goes “But I try to be conscious of my own biases and correct them in my own thinking and action as much as I possibly can.”

        Otherwise they’re really not all that much better than the very racist person.

  48. CandyFloss*

    I’m incredibly upset and heartbroken – as I love my job.
    But do you really? How do you love a job where you are insulted and degraded for how you look? I think what you mean is, you would love your job if this issue didn’t exists.

    And the reason I am making that distinction is, it’s very unlikely this part of the job is going to change and weight won’t be an issue. So viewing your job as whole, with the weight pressure, nasty comments and discrimination being part of it, do you still love this job? It’s easy to get caught up in the “if only” — “if only X changes, this will be perfect”. But you have to base your decisions on what’s real, not what could be.

    You work at a company where the CEO feels entitled to tell you that you need to lose weight, that’s your reality. I don’t think having a discussion with your manager is worthwhile. Even if she has a more reasonable take on the situation than the CEO – HE IS THE CEO. He wants thin people working for him and you don’t meet his criteria. Again, it’s extremely unlikely he will wake up one day and change his opinion. If he’s not changing, you have 3 choices:
    – Get “thin and edgy” and stay that way
    – Live with being insulted and not moved forward at work because of your weight
    – Get another job

    These people sound like lunatics to me and I also think it’s highly unlikely that this is an otherwise well-run company that just has this one little “quirk” and they are reasonable in all other respects.

  49. Rose*

    I think one of the weirdest things is that they asked if she was “willing” to be thin and edgy. Like it was a day long training she could take?

    1. Tinker*

      It kind of read to me as one of those passive-aggressive “15 pieces of flair” sort of things.

      1. Rose*

        TOTALLY. Or the “I’m just gunna go ahead and ask you to come in on Saturday.”

        “I’m gunna go ahead and ask you to loose 20 pounds and wear all black. Can you do that?”
        Erm… no.

  50. Sarah*

    Its sounds like management could have been better in bringing this up and I know my opinion is not going to be the popular one here. But I kind of equate this as being similar to a boss telling you that you would have more work opportunities if you dressed more professionally… I’m a little exhausted of hearing people say “well size 14 is the national average and I’m ok with being the average”.. or something else to that extent. It doesn’t sound like they’re telling you to be a specific weight or a specific size. Everyone keeps saying you shouldn’t be expected to lose weight to looking emaciated and being an unhealthy weight, but what if you just dropped 20 lbs? Its really not that hard.. yes, it takes a little work, but its not insane or anything. Its cheaper than having to get new clothes! If everyone puts a lot of emphasis on health and exercise then it sounds like that’s part of the work life there. You say you love your job, is it really that crazy to lose a few pounds? Work out a little more? I’m a size 6 for reference, I weigh around 155 and I work out 6 days a week right after work for roughly an hour. People at work act like I’m some sort of miracle woman.. its not that hard, its a small fraction of my day. I think a lot of it has to do with different mindsets too. If your employers and coworkers are like me, they probably don’t think they’re asking you to do anything crazy or unusual.

    1. Zahra*

      It may be a small fraction of your day, but it’s a fraction many people don’t have. My weekday looks like :
      6:30 wake up, get my toddler and I ready to leave,
      7:15: leave for daycare,
      7:30 drop off my son,
      8:30: get to work, work,
      17:00: leave for daycare,
      18:00: pick up my son,
      18:15: arrive at home, cook dinner,
      19:15: eat,
      20:00: bath and bed time for my son,
      21:30: bedtime for me
      Midnight: go see the toddler who woke up and asked for me

      Yep, my commute is one hour, and I live in the city. I do use public transit, but using a car would only save me about 15 minutes between home and daycare. Car commute between daycare and work is the same as public transit. So, for someone in my situation (and many people are), working out one hour a day is not possible. Heck, I’m a gamer and I barely have the time to sit in front of my computer to play all week long.

      1. Sarah*

        I think it just depends on where you’re priorities are. Sometimes things get sacrificed. Also, there’s the weekend. Lets say, 2 days a week you woke up and ran at 5:30 am and pushed your toddler in a stroller, (or get a treadmill) burn 400 calories before breakfast.. Then on the weekend spend an hour and a half at the gym, they usually have daycare centers (or if you’re married make your husband watch him). I get this from my coworkers as well. The one’s who just had babies, and they say “Well, just wait till you have kids and then you’ll know.” But the thing is, I watch the woman at my gym who literally comes in with her newborn in a carrier and hands him off to her husband who is leaving the gym on his way home. You make the time. Its a lifestyle and it seems like the OPs coworkers are all living this lifestyle and want her to join.

        1. Zahra*

          Stroller suitable for running: 300$ (no, I don’t have a stroller. I’ve used babywearing a lot, which you shouldn’t do if you’re running)
          Treadmill: 1000$
          Spending money on those things isn’t in my priorities, especially considering the following:

          I need my sleep. I haven’t slept 8 straight hours (and I need that much sleep) in 3 years. Getting up at 5:30 would mean sacrificing some very precious sleep. On the weekends, I’m alone with my kid on Sundays. I spend little enough time with my kid as it is, I’d rather not go to the gym (and leave him in the daycare center there). I prefer walking to the park and play with him, which we regularly do. I calculate that I do walk at least 1 km per day and try to walk more (work-metro station is 600m each way, home-daycare is 1 km each way).

        2. Linguist curmudgeon*

          There’s research showing that lack of sleep makes people *more* inclined to be overweight.

          I mention this only because it’s clear that the usual argument in favor of getting sufficient sleep (that it keeps you healthier in every way) will not hold water with you, Sarah, because your comments are only about weight/appearance.

          (Seriously, though, when people say “wake up earlier” all I hear is “torch your well-being.”)

    2. Kelly L.*

      Why does she need to buy new clothes? Does this go along with your other post below, where you assume she was lighter in the past? You have no idea whether her weight has fluctuated at all.

    3. Observer*

      There are a number of issues with what you are saying.

      Firstly, you are making a huge number of assumptions, some of which the others have mentions.

      You are also assuming that the OP is overweight, but there is absolutely no reason to think so. It’s actually pretty rare to be 155 and size 6 – you are, in fact the first person who I’ve heard of, in fact.

      That may have to do with the fact that you work our an hour a day – something that most people don’t have the time for. It’s also NOT something that most people need to maintain a healthy weight.

      Lastly, you are making assumptions about about the management that are not borne out by the facts. Asking someone to be “thin and edgy” is NOT about health (I feel like a broken record), nor is telling people of all sizes that they need to lose weight. Both, in fact, are indications of people who have no clue of what a healthy weight is.

  51. Sarah*

    Also, I want to clarify, you don’t have to “starve” yourself to lose 20 lbs.. If you’re a size 12, your body isn’t going to go into shock if you get down to a 6… Its not “well, this is just ME naturally. You know that 5 or 10 years ago when you were roughly the same height as now you were lighter. It doesn’t mean go on a 500 calorie a day diet. Hell, I eat 2,500 calories a day! Just eat healthy things and then work out. And not all running, lift some weights! I know you’re not even that big, I just am tired of the huge population of overweight people in america who just want to “save” everyone’s feelings! I think its possible that your bosses aren’t asshats, MAYBE they’ve been paying attention to the NEWS and are concerned about people they know and care about and say something instead of dancing around the issue. If someone is 300 lbs, they’re fat! That’s it, they aren’t big boned, they aren’t genetically predispositioned. Society today is telling us two very different things, on the one hand, everyone on here as well as in your community and social relationships gets upset at the idea of someone commenting on someone else’s weight. On the other hand, you have the entire nation and world even, freaking out over eating habits, rising obesity, healthcare costs, and deaths due to being fat.. It doesn’t sound like they were purposely shaming you, it sounds like they were being blunt, there’s a difference… Also, to all the people who are like skinny doesn’t equal healthy etc, I agree with you, it doesn’t. But you know if you’re a size 12, you can lose some weight… there’s no way, if you’re being honest with yourself, that your eating habits and exercise habits and general life activities are incredibly healthy and above reproach..

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hey Sarah. While certainly it’s true that some people feel more helpless about their weight than they actually are, we have zero information that should lead us to conclude that that’s the case with the OP, nor do we have any way of knowing that she should or could lose weight.

      I’m going to ask that you be more thoughtful in your approach here, because you’re saying very specific things about a specific person when you really don’t have any grounds for it. That’s not about dancing around issues; it’s about being more precise in what you’re saying to a stranger. Thank you.

      1. Sarah*

        Ok, I feel very strongly about this issue and realized before I wrote anything that it wouldn’t be popular. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. And obviously them saying “thin and edgy” was ridiculous and uncalled for at work. I did say it should have been handled better.

        1. Candy Floss*

          It is not your business how much other people weigh. There are many many MANY things that put health at risk, weight can be one and the problem is it is a visible one so its easy, if you so inclined, to pick on that that one. A person who meets your standard of weight may be engaging in 10 other activities that are risky but you have no way to know that.

    2. Observer*

      You seem to be missing a few key facts here. Firstly, her boss actually asked her to be “thin and edgy”. I don’t know of any doctor who would consider that a description of a healthy body. Secondly, the boss who told her that she needs to lose weight has told this to a number of people, even those who are smaller than her. At her size, unless she’s 4’2″ or something like that, it’s HIGHLY unlikely that they really need to lose weight for their health. Lastly, her doctor is actually happy with her weight. To assume that her doctor is happy with her weight, even though she is really overweight is to assume that her doctor is an incompetent idiot. Given the other facts, it far, far more likely that the idiots are her bosses. Nothing to do with sparing people’s feelings or political correctness.

      A few more facts. No one is a size 12 and 300lb. Size 12 to size 6 is generally more than 20 lb. And losing that amount is NOT necessarily about just eating healthy foods. ANY time you want to lose weight, even if you REALLY need to, you need to cut calories or notch up the activity – generally significantly. If you are not overweight, it’s much harder because your body will slow your resting metabolism rate down even more than if you are overweight.)

    3. Katie the Fed*

      “Just eat healthy things and then work out. ”

      Wow. I really wish you knew how completely rude and out of touch your comments here are.

      I’ll try to spell this out for you: what works for you does not work for everyone. Your experience is not everyone’s. It’s super awesome that you’re someone who can cut down and exercise and weight melts off. That is not the case for everyone. Even medical researchers who focus on obesity acknowledge this. There really are people who can eat a healthy, low calorie diet and exercise regularly who are fat. It happens. I know that’s completely outside of your belief system but I assure you it’s true.

      1. Omne*

        Without getting into the discussion I do feel it necessary to make one observation- if a person burns off more calories than they consume they will lose weight. It may be harder to burn off those calories for some reason but the weight will decrease. The work output of a system cannot be greater than the energy put in. If that weren’t true you would have disproven the first Law of Thermodynamics and also created a hypothetical perpetual motion machine.

  52. Sarah*

    So, I’ve been thinking about it. (I’m obviously having a slow day at work) I know this isn’t directly relevant, but I’m curious. I was watching Philadelphia with Tom Hanks the other day for the first time. And we all know he had AIDS and got fired for it and won a wrongful termination suit against his employers. My question is since obesity was classified as a disease, does it now fall into the same category as AIDS or cancer as far as employers can’t fire a person for that reason? I’m not even sure if the laws are the same as they were back then, but I’m kind of curious.

  53. Willow Sunstar*

    Personally, I would find a new job because the employer is obviously prejudiced. Life is too short to work for prejudiced people.

  54. KS*

    What an ignorant cow that boss is. I have nothing more I can add. Just…pathetic, adults acting like actual teenagers. I’d probably just get myself in trouble telling her where she needs to go.

Comments are closed.